By Angela Greenwood

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A stunning verdict came down in the murder trial of a young woman shot and killed on a San Francisco pier by an undocumented immigrant.

A jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate in the death of Kate Steinle on Thursday, convicting him only of felony possession of a firearm

“It was a verdict that we were not hoping for,” said prosecutor Alex Bastian, “The jurors are the ones that make a determination on a case. And we will respect that decision.”

Garcia Zarate was accused of shooting and killing 32-year-old Steinle as she strolled with her dad along San Francisco’s Pier 14 more than two years ago. Steinle’s family was not in the courtroom for the verdict, but in an interview with SF Gate, Kate’s father, Jim said “We’re just shocked – saddened and shocked … that’s about it. There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”

Steinle’s death happened just two weeks after President Trump announced his bid for the White House and instantly became part of a heated presidential campaign condemning illegal immigration. Garcia Zarate had already been deported back to Mexico five times. Just days before the shooting, he was released from the San Francisco jail instead of being turned over to federal immigration authorities.

“Another victim is Kate Steinle, gunned down in the sanctuary city of San Francisco,” said President Trump in 2015.

Garcia Zarate’s public defender said immigration was not a factor in this case.

Public defender and immigration attorney Francisco Ugarte said, “Nothing about Mr. Garcia Zarate’s ethnicity, nothing about his immigration status, nothing about the fact that he is born in Mexico had any relevance as to what happened on July 1, 2015.”

The prosecution claimed Garcia Zarate was playing a secret game of Russian Roulette with a gun that had been stolen from a Bureau of Land Management truck days before. Garcia Zarate’s defense called Steinle’s death a tragic accident. It appeared the jury in this case agreed.

In a statement, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement blasted San Francisco over the verdict, saying its “…policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law. This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.”

Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country.”

For the Steinle family, it’s another step in the grieving process.

“We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our own terms,” Jim Steinle told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms.


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